"Stillness" is certainly associated with the doctrine of the unmoving pivot (Chung Yung), the just process of the universe which predicates a still point of the turning world. ‘Silence’ also comes to mind. In the same way, "the power over wild beasts" (as well as that which is bestial in ourselves) brings both Dionysus (the metamorphosis of Canto III, for example) and Orpheus/Apollo (the magical power of music/song) to mind. The key phrase, in fact, is ‘the forth dimension’ which, according to Piotr Demianovich Ouspensky [Petr Dem’yanovich Uspensky] as discussed by Marjorie Perloff in The Futurist Moment | 14 | , represented a transcendence of physical reality and art to a higher consciousness or intuition, another level of reality beyond conventional time and space which encompasses and harmonizes all human experience. The past, he argued is more than what has happened, there is also all that might have been. The future is not merely what has not yet happened, but also pertains to all that may be. On the other hand the Symbolist poets, who were much influenced by Theosophy and Anthoposophy, etc., thought of the fourth dimension as a sphere of spirituality. Symbolism was, after all, a system in which concrete imagery was used to express hidden meaning through subliminal suggestiveness.


14 | (Chicago and London),University of Chicago Press, pp. 128-129.

In a letter to Joseph Ibbotson dated 7 December 1937, the year in which Canto XLIX was first published, Dorothy Pound refers to that concept quite unselfconsciously.

I am sorry you missed our Nuovo Quartetto Ungarese – as they are the most extraordinary performance. General [Henry King?] MacGeorge came out from the concert talking quite wildly of the 4th dimensional something or other –. He had caught the precision, & the very strange unfamiliar quality that it produced in the air. The Bartok V Quartet took me to Gengis Khan and the Golden Horde! And a whole series of fantastic Paolo Uchello’s moving – very rapidly too. | 15 |

The technique of simultaneity (the overlapping of radically diverse images, whether different in character or time) as Pound exploits it, is perhaps more a function of Italian Futurism and Russian Formalism than of a later objectification as ideogrammic method. Ronald Bush describes the latter with great precision: "the disparate elements… may be conceptually and emotionally unrelated as long as they overlap in one quality and they combine in a manner that is more spatial or simultaneous than sequential". | 16 | Indeed, Canto XLIX sets out to present the organic unity of an ideal culture and accomplishes its end in more ways than one. The poem is, of course, conceived as a magic moment, and much of its enchantment is achieved by shifts in rhythmic structuring and relationships between visual and verbal conventions. The over-all effect is one of acceleration, dynamism, and simultaneity as well as a rejection of art as representation (or imitation) of nature, although it does celebrate constructivism.

15 | Ezra Pound, Letters to Ibbotson, 1935-1952, ed. Vittoria I. Mordalfo and Margaret Hurley (Orono ME; National Poetry Foundation, 1979), pp. 73-74.

16 | The Genesis of Ezra Pound's Cantos (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 11.

Observed changes in metrical structuring certainly reinforce this view. The first four stanzas maintain a fairly even pattern of irregularity in both line length and distribution of rhythmic sets. The majority of lines are rising sets of either four or five beats, and a number of others function as pairs of three-beat units or doubled lines of six beats each with a medial caesura. In two cases there are shorter rhythmic sets [lines 8 and 14], but they seem to combine with the preceding unit to form six-beat combinations. In addition, there is an interesting interplay between the number of beats per line and the total number of syllables which effectively expands or contracts rhythm. In the present instance the relationship is either equal in number, emphasizing declarative authority, or a greater number of offbeats than beats, gives the impression of heightened lyricism – a sense of nostalgia and elegant restraint. The judicious use of di-syllabic words with initial stress introduces falling rhythms strategically. Word and phrase boundaries countermand the expectation of metronomic regularity. All instances of falling meter are underlined in the appendix below, and I suggest that the substitution of ‘seven’ for ‘eight lakes’ depends on such musical phrasing.

Following the mention of a visit to the "hill lakes" by the Ch’ing Emperor, K’ang hsi, the fifth stanza shifts abruptly both in subject matter and rhythmic form – from scenic description to political and economic values, from quiet lyricism to emphatic stress. Syntactic inversion in the opening line causes the reader to pause between "riches" and "shd.", while the line’s length (seven beats, thirteen syllables) calls further attention to itself. The second line has only four beats, as does the third, but it too contains an unavoidable caesura. The point is simple: no state should incur debt when creating wealth, and although built for Yang Ti’s pleasure, the canal counts as part of state riches. A monumental scroll-painting of K’ang hsi’s ceremonial progress along the entire length of that water-way is one of the great treasures of the museum at The Forbidden City.

Having speeded up the tempo, stanza six contradicts by slowing it down. The Auspicious Clouds Song, a perfect statement of ineffability, is couched as an elevated and hieratic chant of four strongly stressed monosyllables per line with only two exceptions – and all in capital letters. Such rhythmic sets (doubled spondees) are not altogether new: "Beat, beat, whirr, thud, in the soft turf" [IV: 8], for example, or "One year floods rose," [IX: 1]. The visual impact was also significant for Pound’s intention. On 9 April 1939 Richard de la Mare [Faber & Faber] wrote to John Easton [Robert Maclehose & Co. (printers)]:

Pound has been so absurdly fussy about his proofs that I think I had better have a revise before I pass them for the press.., on page 46 he wants each of those columns so that they come out when printed in an even width up each column, which means that the shorter lines have to be spaced out to the full length of the longer lines. I hate to do it like that, but that is what he wants. | 17 |

17 | Unpublished letter, Faber & Faber.

The visual arrangement quite literally perceives the Emperor as pillars which connect earth and heaven, as well as a means of intermediation between them.

As counterweight, earth is also celebrated by the peasant’s Clod Beating Song which begins with accelerated, foreshortened rhythms and caesurae abounding. Speed is the point here, not to mention emphatic stress. The unnatural wording of that last line, " Imperial power is? and to us what is it?" echoes the opening of stanza six’, "State by creating riches shd. get into debt" and leads to the final assertion:

The fourth; the dimension of stillness.
And the power over wild beasts.

Contrasting tempi characterize assertions about the harmony of nature and mankind, imperial power, and the workaday world which is both linked and underlined by syntactical repetition.